March 17, 2011

Libya: Separating grain from chaff Part I

Most Filipinos generally lack information as well as interest in the countries of North Africa. But in time Libya, a country rich in oil resources and ruled by Moammar Kaddafi, has become a favored destination for migrant workers because of the relative ease in securing well-paid work there and eventually as a springboard for moving to Italy and other European countries where even better economic opportunities hopefully lie.

In the past month, when armed clashes between loyalist and anti-government forces threatened to develop into a full blown civil war, the face of that war to Filipinos was still that of thousands of overseas Filipino workers caught in the crossfire. With no defenses and nowhere to turn (one OFW sent a video showing embassy officials abandoning their posts), they desperately tried to get out, literally crossing the vast Libyan desert with only their clothes on their back.

But they faced the bleak prospect of finding themselves poor and jobless once more back in the Philippines, a fate they had tried escaping by working in a far away country and a culturally unfamiliar society.

The little that was reported on about the fighting between the pro- and anti-Kaddafi forces centered on alleged excessive force inflicted by government forces on unarmed protesters turned armed insurgents; the quick victories by the rebels in capturing Benghazi (the second largest city in Libya north of the country’s richest oil fields as well as close to most of its oil and gas pipelines, refineries and its LNG port) and several other towns east and west of the capital, Tripoli; and the establishment of a “transition government” which France and Portugal immediately recognized as the legitimate government of Libya.

Local mass media outlets have depended almost entirely on reports by international wire agencies about what is going on inside Libya. Most of these have been sketchy, relying on unattributed sources such as purported “witnesses” and unnamed “rebels” who were obviously biased against the Libyan government.

The US and its European allies were quick to condemn Kaddafi and called on him to step down, imposed travel and asset sanctions, poised their warships for an attack on Libya, and are now working for the enforcement of a “no-fly zone” over Libya, all under the pretext of “international humanitarian intervention”.

Critical voices that questioned the demonization of Kaddafi and the legitimacy, popularity and strength of the anti-Kaddafi forces (particularly the pro-monarchy National Front for the Salvation of Libya) in representing the demands and aspirations of the Libyan people have been drowned out by the chorus of Western governments, Arab leaders and pseudo-expert political analysts hostile to Kaddafi.

But even the Western-dominated global media, the United Nations Security Council and the Pentagon concede that not enough is known about what is really happening on the ground. For the moment, this is one big factor that has forestalled any overt and drastic military intervention by the US-NATO such as the “no-fly zone”, even as US and British Special Forces and covert intelligence agents that serve as advance units are confirmed to be already operating inside Libyan territory.

In the last few days reports filtering out of Libya indicate that the Kaddafi government has regained the initiative, pushing back the rebels from important captured towns and controlling not just Tripoli but large swathes of the country as well.

It is conceded that Kaddafi’s loyalist forces are composed of well-trained and better-equipped soldiers with the advantage of fire-power from warships and an air force that his opponents lack.

What is slowly becoming clearer is that Kaddafi’s staying power can not only be attributed to his military prowess but to the continuing support of significant, if not majority, segments of the Libyan populace.

Moreover, while Western media constantly point to so-called black mercenaries, other sources describe these non-Libyan forces as volunteers from African nations and liberation movements that had benefitted from Kadaffi’s well-known acts of solidarity and generosity and were now fighting to defend his government as well as Libyan sovereignty.

Such support provides Kaddafi political legitimacy despite the campaign early on to demonize him before the international public. It lends justification to the increasingly successful military offensives of his loyalist forces as part of the right of the Libyan state to defend itself against an armed rebellion.

Conversely, it would mark any direct US-NATO military intervention as an outright attack on the sovereign will of the Libyan people especially since even anti-Kaddafi forces are divided on whether such intervention would help their cause or serve to undermine it. Even Western media sources have reported that most of the Libyan opposition vehemently oppose it.

But why all of a sudden are these great western powers exhibiting such inordinate concern for the seven million or so Libyans?

Military action to overthrow the Kaddafi government on the pretext of “humanitarian intervention” will not be as easy to explain much less justify. This much the US and its NATO allies are now realizing based on their interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and earlier in the Balkans.

Aside from the truth having been exposed especially with regard to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, questions are raised why these powers were not concerned about the lives lost and the destruction wreaked on Gaza when it was being bombarded by Israel in 2009, or when Palestinian refugees were massacred in Sabra-Shatilla in 1982?

Why are they not as quick to condemn and call for international intervention - diplomatic, economic and military – against the continuing mailed-fist treatment of unarmed protestors in other North African states such as Egypt and Yemen and those in the Middle East such as Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet. Bahrain has already declared martial law, killed scores of demonstrators, and has welcomed 1000 elite Saudi Arabian troops to help quell the unrest.

The truth is that as in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and its NATO allies are jumping at the opportunity presented by the internal strife in Libya to control the latter’s oil resources by deposing Kaddafi and installing a more friendly and pliant regime. Libya has the largest confirmed oil reserves in Africa, three times that of the US and nearly one tenth of the world total.

After Kaddafi nationalized the Libyan oil industry in the 1960s until the 1990s when Kaddafi gave in to Western pressure rather than risk being the next US target after Iraq, the West had only limited access to Libyan oil, and much of the oil revenues were funneled to support Third World liberation movements and revolutionary governments. After Libya accepted the imposition of neoliberal policies on its economy, US and European oil companies such as Chevron, Exxon, Total, British Petroleum and others were allowed to explore and extract oil.

No doubt, these foreign monopolies want more, if not all of Libyan oil and natural gas. They will settle for nothing less than absolute, not partial access and control of these abundant strategic resources. #

Published in Business World
18-19Mrch 2011


At Tuesday, 22 March, 2011 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muammar Ghaddafi has been responsible for a series of terrorist acts such as the Lockerbie and discoteque bombing. I still have to read your piece on the chinese enroachment to our territorial waters. I shows how one sided you are. (Since my post is against your political views, I believe that this will not be posted.Talking about democracy...hypocrite!)


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